In ancient times, spikenard (also called nard, nardin and muskroot) was regarded as one of the most precious oils. It’s been used as a perfume, a medicine and in religious contexts across a wide territory from India to Europe. Biblically, it’s referenced when Mary of Bethany spent a year’s worth of wages to buy this oil and anoint Jesus’ feet before the Last Supper. It’s derived from Nardostachys jatamansi, a flowering plant of the Valerian family.
Spikenard oil is used as an herbal medicine to naturally treat insomnia, stress, digestive problems, weak immune system and infections. In Ayurvedic medicine, it’s used for treating sleeping troubles, depression, stress, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome and nervous problems. The powdered stem of this beneficial plant is taken internally to cleanse the uterus, help with infertility and treat menstrual disorders.
Spikenard Plant and Components
Spikenard grows in the Himalayas of Nepal, China and India; it’s found at altitudes of about 10,000 feet. It grows to be about three feet in height, and it has pink, bell-shaped flowers. Spikenard is distinguished by having many hairy spikes shooting out from one root, and it’s called “the Indian spike” by the Arabs.
The stems of the plant, called rhizomes, are crushed and distilled into an essential oil that has an intense aroma and amber color. It has a heavy, sweet, woody and spicy odor, which is said to resemble the smell of moss. It blends well with frankincense, geranium, patchouli, vetiver and myrrh oils.
Spikenard essential oil is extracted by steam distillation of the resin obtained from this plant — its chief components include aristolene, calarene, clalarenol, coumarin, dihydroazulenes, jatamanshinic acid, nardol, nardostachone, valerianol, valeranal and valeranone. According to research, the essential oil obtained from the roots of spikenard show fungi toxic activity, antimicrobial, antifungal, hypotensive, antiarrhythmic and anticonvulsant activity. The rhizomes extracted with 50 percent ethanol show hepatoprotective, hypolipidemic and antiarrhythmic activity.
8 Proven Spikenard Benefits
1. Fights Bacteria and Fungus
Spikenard stops bacterial growth on the skin and inside the body. On the skin, it’s applied to wounds in order to kill bacteria and heal cuts fast. Inside the body, spikenard treats bacterial infections in the kidneys, urinary bladder and urethra. It’s also known to treat treat toenail fungus, athlete’s foot, tetanus, cholera and food poisoning.
A study done at the Western Regional Research Center in California evaluated the bactericidal activity levels of 96 essential oils. Spikenard was one of the oils that was most active against C. jejuni, a species of bacteria commonly found in animal feces. C. jejuni is one of the most common causes of human gastroenteritis in the world. Spikenard is also antifungal, so it promotes skin health and helps heal ailments caused by fungal infections. This powerful plant is able to ease itching, treat patches on the skin and treat dermatitis.
2. Relieves Inflammation
The spikenard essential oil is extremely beneficial to your health because of its ability to fight inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation is at the root of most diseases and dangerous for your nervous, digestive and respiratory systems; it’s known to play a role in allergic diseases like asthma, arthritis and Crohn’s disease, as well as Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and Parkinson’s disease.
A 2010 study done at the School of Oriental Medicine in South Korea investigated the effect of spikenard on acute pancreatitis — a sudden inflammation of the pancreas that can range from mild discomfort to a life-threatening illness. The results suggest spikenard treatment weakened the severity of acute pancreatitis and pancreatitis-associated lung injury; this proves that spikenard serves as an anti-inflammatory agent.
3. Relaxes the Mind and Body
Spikenard is a relaxing and soothing oil for the skin and mind; it’s used as a sedative and calming agent. It’s also a natural coolant, so it rids the mind of anger and aggression. It sedates feelings of depression and restlessness, and can serve as a natural way to bust stress.
A study done at the School of Pharmaceutical Science in Japan examined spikenard for its sedative activity using a spontaneous vapor administration system. The results indicated that spikenard contained a lot of calarene and its vapor inhalation had a sedative effect on mice. The study also indicated that when essential oils were mixed together, the sedative response was more significant; this was especially true when spikenard was mixed with galangal, patchouli, borneol and sandalwood essential oils.
The school also isolated two components of spikenard, valerena-4,7(11)-diene and beta-maaliene, and both compounds reduced the locomotor activity of mice. Valerena-4,7(11)-diene had a particularly profound effect, with the strongest sedative activity; in fact, caffeine-treated mice that showed locomotor activity that was double that of controls were calmed to normal levels by the administration of valerena-4,7(11)-diene. The mice slept 2.7 times longer, an effect similar to that of chlorpromazine, a prescription drug given to patients with mental or behavior disorders.
4. Stimulates the Immune System
Spikenard is an immune system booster; it calms the body and allows it to function properly. Spikenard is a natural hypotensive, so it naturally lowers blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure is when the pressure on the arteries and blood vessels becomes too high and the arterial wall becomes distorted, causing extra stress on the heart. Long term-high blood pressure increases the risk of stroke, heart attack and diabetes.
Using spikenard is a natural remedy for high blood pressure because it dilates the arteries, acts as an antioxidant to reduce oxidative stress and decreases emotional stress. Spikenard also relieves inflammation, which is the culprit for a host of diseases and illnesses.
A 2012 study conducted in India found that spikenard rhizomes (the stems of the plant) exhibited high reduction capability and powerful free radical scavenging. Free radicals are very dangerous to the body’s tissues and have been connected to cancer and premature aging; the body uses antioxidants to prevent itself from the damage caused by oxygen. Like all high antioxidant foods and plants, they protect our bodies from inflammation and fight free radical damage, keeping our systems and organs running properly.
5. Promotes Hair Growth
Spikenard oil is known for promoting the growth of hair, retaining its natural color and slowing down the process of graying. A 2011 study published in Pharmacognosy Magazine measured spikenard oil’s ability to stimulate hair growth. For the study, the crude extract, fractions and two of the isolated compounds were tested for their hair growth activity. Hair growth was tested on female Wistar rats that had hair removed in a four-centimeter square area before the study began.
The results indicate that spikenard oil showed positive response in hair growth promotion activity; the crude spikenard extracts were more effective than the pure compounds. Because the isolated compounds were effective in different ways, when they were acting together in the extract, hair growth resumed within a short period of time. When using spikenard extract, there was a 30 percent reduction in the time it look for the hair to grow back on the tested rats — showing that spikenard can work as a hair loss remedy.
6. Relieves Insomnia
Many adults experience insomnia at some point, but some people have long-term (chronic) insomnia. Insomnia may be the primary problem, or it may be secondary due to other causes, such as stress and anxiety, overuse of stimulants, sugar, indigestion, pain, alcohol, lack of physical activity, restless leg syndrome, hormonal changes, sleep apnea, or other medical conditions.
So if you can’t sleep, spikenard is a great natural remedy, without the use of drugs that can lead to other health issues. Spikenard’s sedative and laxative properties can be helpful for people with insomnia. It leaves you relaxed, and feelings of restlessness and anxiety fade away. If your insomnia is a result of indigestion or stomach issues, spikenard will prove helpful because it improves the working of the digestive system.
7. Relieves Constipation
Because it’s a natural laxative, spikenard stimulates the digestive system and keeps you running regularly. Unlike synthetic laxatives that dry out the intestinal wall, spikenard naturally keeps your poop moving through the colon and out of your body in the form of stool. Spikenard helps naturally relieve constipation, which is accompanied by a variety of symptoms such as bloating, gas, back pain or fatigue.
8. Protects Uterus and Ovaries
Spikenard purifies the uterus and ovaries and stimulates the secretion of estrogen and progesterone. This helps maintain the reproductive abilities of these vital organs. It’s been used in traditional and Ayurvedic medicine as a uterus stimulant for promoting menstruation, cleansing the uterus, treating painful menstruation and reducing inflammation of the uterus.
Spikenard History & Interesting Facts
The rhizomes and roots of the spikenard plant are used as antistress agents in traditional medicine, and spikenard is marketed in India as an anticonvulsant Ayurvedic drug. Spikenard is mentioned twice in the Bible, and the word nard in Hebrew means “light.” John 12:3 states: “Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odor of the ointment.”
Spikenard use dates back to ancient times when the Egyptians viewed it as a luxury and the Romans used it as perfume. Nard was also referenced in Homer’s Iliad when it was used to perfume the body of Patroklos by Achilles. Spikenard was used to season foods in Medieval European cuisine, especially as a part of the spice blend used to flavor Hypocras, a sweetened and spiced wine drink. It was also an ingredient for a strong beer called Stingo in the 17th century.
How to Use Spikenard
Spikenard is most commonly used in cleansing, but it can be used as aromatherapy or topically as well. You can purchase spikenard essential oil from your local health food store or online. Here are some spikenard uses that I recommend:
- For aromatherapy, diffuse 5 drops of spikenard essential oil or inhale 1–2 drops.
- To calm the mind and relax the body, inhale 2 drops of spikenard oil or add 5 drops to a diffuser or oil burner.
- To make a massage oil, add 5 drops of spikenard oil to 1 teaspoon of a carrier oil (like jojoba, almond or coconut oil). This massage oil is great for relieving headaches, sore muscles, sleeping difficulties and menstrual cramps.
- For a calming bath, add 2–4 drops of spikenard oil to warm water. It relaxes the mind and helps with sleeping difficulties.
- To relieve respiratory problems, add 2 drops of spikenard to equal parts of a carrier oil and rub the mixture on your chest. You can also try adding 10–20 drops of spikenard oil to my Homemade Vapor Rub.
- To lower blood pressure or treat heart palpitations, massage 2 drops of spikenard oil into your feet or make a warm foot bath.
- To use as an antiseptic, rub 1–2 drops of spikenard oil onto wounds or cuts twice daily.
- To stimulate hair growth, add 5–10 drops of spikenard essential oil to my Homemade Conditioner recipe.
- When used topically, it is safe to apply spikenard directly to the skin. You can also mix it with a carrier oil, like coconut or jojoba oil.
- For internal use, only use very high-quality oil brands. You can add a drop of spikenard to water or mix it with a smoothie.
- To boost immune system, add 1 drop of high-quality spikenard oil to my Immune-Boosting Smoothie Recipe.
DIY Spikenard Tea Recipe
To make your own spikenard tea, use a handful of spikenard roots that have been washed thoroughly. Then add them to boiling water and let it infuse for about five minutes or longer for better results. Drain the liquid and drink it hot or cold. It’s best to prepare a new tea every 3–4 days because it loses its health benefits after some time.
When you store your tea, it’s best to keep it in the refrigerator. Spikenard tea is beneficial to your health because it has anti-inflammatory properties and it kills bacteria, infections or fungi inside the body. It also helps lower blood pressure, ease your mind and boost your immune system.
Possible Side Effects
It’s safe to use spikenard topically, and when using it internally, make sure you use high-quality and organic products only. Avoid using spikenard when pregnant or nursing because there’s not enough research to indicate whether or not it is completely safe. Some essential oils may cause irritation or allergic reactions in people with sensitive skin, so test a patch of skin before using the oil regularly.
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